KC ready for international spotlight
City will have chance to show itself off to many on large stage
KANSAS CITY -- Kansas City is an All-Star city again.
Long expected, it became an official reality with Wednesday's announcement by Commissioner Bud Selig that the Kansas City Royals will be host to the 2012 All-Star Game.
It was Selig who gave the Royals real hope, after years of wishful thinking, that they'd get the Midsummer Classic again. He announced in 2006 that the All-Star Game would be held in Kansas City between 2010 and 2014 -- if the tax referendum to renovate Kauffman Stadium was passed.
"He has a special place in his heart for Kansas City," Royals owner David Glass said then.
The referendum was passed by Jackson County taxpayers on April 4, 2006, and the $275 million in stadium renovations were completed last year.
Wednesday, on the field where the 2012 All-Star Game will be played, Selig delivered on his promise.
The event is expected to bring about $70 million into the community, a big boost economically.
"It's that one event that kind of puts a city on the map, and that's what Kansas City has to look forward to, and they have to look forward to putting on their best face," said Frank White, a five-time All-Star and member of the Royals Hall of Fame.
"It's unbelievable what goes on during that time, and everybody's on center stage. It's your opportunity to display what's important about your city and to show off your ballpark and things that are involved in baseball. And I think the history of the team has a chance to come out on a national stage again. Even though the recent history hasn't been that great, there is a lot of history here."
The Royals were host to the 1973 All-Game in the first season of what was then called Royals Stadium, a brand-new ballpark that had the innovative sparkling waters of fountains behind right field. Prior to that, the city's only Major League All-Star Game was held by the Kansas City A's in 1960.
"It's a big-time event that has a magnitude that's far-reaching in terms of the exposure," said Kevin Gray, president of the Kansas City Sports Commission. "It has national and international implications, and certainly local regional implications as well. For a market this size, it really helps reinforce the Major League status for a community right here in the middle of the country."
The game will give the area worldwide exposure and will be the first baseball event to draw international media coverage in Kansas City since the 1985 World Series, won by the Royals over the St. Louis Cardinals. The city's most recent major sports event was NCAA basketball's Final Four in 1988.
It's not only a showcase for the host team, but for the entire community.
"People say, 'Oh, you don't have the oceans or mountains,' but this is a great place to raise a family and to work. Kansas City has a reasonable cost of living in a diverse community. It's the best of all worlds and, in some respects, a very, very well-kept secret," Gray said.
"I think, long-term, you can look in terms of the people who will visit Kansas City, and they will say, 'Wow, it's really a nice place.' It gives Kansas City a chance to put its best foot forward, which is always very important -- not just for your local citizens, but for the people who are visiting."
As time passed after the 1973 All-Star Game, the Royals grew restive about securing the event once more. But their bids never got past first base, and as new stadiums were increasingly built, cities with those venues tended to be awarded the games -- St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Houston are recent examples.
But the extensive upgrading at Kauffman Stadium resulted in what seems like a new stadium. The first installation was a huge digital video board, the largest in baseball, followed by such amenities as new seating and dining areas, more concessions and restrooms and an entertainment area ringing the outfield. The last piece was the Royals Hall of Fame, which opened last July. A glass-encased office area gave the stadium entrance a grand new look.
And that's what turned Major League Baseball's eyes squarely on Kansas City.
The city was the centerpiece of the season on July 24, 1973, when Royals owner Ewing Kauffman tossed out the ceremonial first pitch in front of a festive crowd of 40,849 at the stadium that had opened in April. Kauffman was accompanied in the happy task by ex-pitchers Bill Hallahan of the Cardinals and Lefty Gomez of the Yankees, the starters in the original All-Star Game 40 years earlier.
The National League beat the American, 7-1, with the Reds' Johnny Bench hitting a monster home run down the left-field line. The NL also got homers from the Dodgers' Willie Davis and the Giants' Bobby Bonds, who also doubled, had two RBIs and was named the game's MVP.
The Royals who played in the '73 Midsummer Classic were center fielder Amos Otis, who had two of the AL's five hits; first baseman John Mayberry, who doubled; and second baseman Cookie Rojas, who didn't get to the plate. The Indians' Buddy Bell, who many years later would manage the Royals, got a pinch-hit triple, and the AL's other hit was a double by the A's Reggie Jackson.
After the game, the stadium lights were doused and multi-colored lights played over the dancing fountains, the inspiration of Kauffman's wife, Muriel.
The city's other All-Star Game was played on July 11, 1960, with the Kansas City A's as the host team. The NL won, 5-3, as 30,619 fans watched at old Municipal Stadium. That was during a period when two All-Star Games were held each year. The players moved on to Yankee Stadium, where, two days later, the NL won again, 6-0.
But the All-Star Game has grown considerably in scope and stature from those days.
"It will definitely bring an awareness of the fact that Kansas City is a good baseball town. We have a lot of tradition," said Chad Waller, baseball sports manager of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in Kansas City.
"I think it will be a boost for the economy. It will bring people to the city from other parts of the county. I think the All-Star Game, given the excitement of the Home Run Derby and things like that, has proved over the last few years that it's not just a one-day event, it's a three- or four-day event. I think for the hotels and the restaurants, and places like the Power and Light District, that's huge."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Associate reporter Samuel Zuba contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.